You decide to check a social media site for just a moment while you wait in line at the grocery store or before you go to bed. You scroll, glance, and then you see it: a post that makes you mad. Perhaps the post seems self-righteous or insensitive. Maybe it’s supposed to be humorous or sarcastic. Perhaps the wording hits you in just the wrong way. As the rage simmers under your hard gaze, you look at the blinking cursor. You could fire back a response; that person needs to know how angry you are, right? Or maybe you choose to block that person but let resentment and fury build as you think about what a “horrible person” he or she is.
Maybe you’ve somehow managed to avoid this temptation, but I can certainly attest to falling into this trap time and time again. I know that Christ’s words in the Gospel lay forth a higher standard; rage-typing and maligning someone’s character online doesn’t really follow the call to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28). However, Jesus is God — He’s perfect — and we’re just weak human beings! We can’t actually live out Christ’s command, can we?
Could we try anyway?
Recently, I stumbled across a passage from an early-Church saint that shouted at me from the page. While it was most likely penned in the early second century, this letter — from St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Ephesians — strikes me as wisdom that we can all heed today, particularly in our numerous interactions online. Referring to all of mankind, St. Ignatius urges the Ephesians to:
Be meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting: to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error, be steadfast in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness. (“Epistle to the Ephesians” #10)
St. Ignatius was imperfect and sinful, just like us. Yet, as he was being taken to Rome for execution, he encouraged those in Ephesus to recall the message of Christ and embrace it in their lives. St. Ignatius had every reason in the world to be angry, spiteful, and bitter. However, in the midst of horrific persecutions, St. Ignatius reminded the Ephesians that instead of reacting angrily to choose the better path: the path of peace, love, and prayer.
The call to holiness is not something that should remain on the shelf, like a lofty, inspirational ideal that we look at and take down every once in a while. We should seek to choose holiness every moment of our days, both on social media and offline. When we feel anger building after noticing a post, comment, or article online, let’s ask ourselves: In our response, how can we be meek and humble? How can we be gentle and prayerful?
Copyright 2020 AnneMarie Miller